The real problem behind marriage equality found in the institutionBy Chris Beacham | 11/18/2012 11:00pm
In the election of 2012, voters in the states of Maryland and Maine chose to legalize gay marriage. To many, this was a cause for celebration and foreshadowing of widespread change. To others, it was something to be wary of. To get straight to the point, for a long time I’ve been amused and baffled as to why this is even an issue. Why does government feel the need to get involved with marriage?
The issue here is not so much about defining marriage as it is about equality. Since traditional views of marriage define the institution as something between a man and woman, same sex couples would not be able to enter into it in most states. They can be granted the same legal rights as a married couple and be recognized as being part of a “civil union.” I’ve heard people say, “Give them the legal benefits, but don’t call it marriage.”
Many politicians, mostly Republican, seem to think that as long as same sex couples have the same benefits as heterosexual couples, they should be happy. The thing they don’t understand is it’s also about the principle. You may give them the legal benefits of being in a marriage, but if you don’t recognize it as a marriage or call it that, you are not treating it equally. The gay and lesbian community wants equality.
Why do we so strongly feel the need to protect marriage? Does this institution, when done traditionally, even work? Does it accomplish what it sets out to do? Divorce rates have been around 50 percent in the last few years for first marriages. Second and third marriage divorce rates go even higher, with up to one-fourth success rates. This means that first marriages succeed as much as they fail, and the potential for divorce increases with each marriage. The divorce rate has declined marginally in the 21st century because more people are choosing not to get married.
It’s a great thing to be able to express your love for another person, but marriage seeks to provide security more than anything. That’s what it is there for. In my view, a couple can express that without this institution, and when two people are in an intimate relationship with strong commitment, “marriage” already exists, although it may not be bound by contract. Marriage also can go against the flow of change, which is natural and a part of life. People are going to want different things and different relationships, if they choose to have them, at different parts of their lives, even if they don’t realize it yet. But if we want to discuss marriage as an issue, the issue needs to be the institution itself. It needs to be modified and updated and not something for government to monitor. The vows need to change, so people aren’t saying “‘til death do us part” multiple times in their lives, which is really silly, and the contractual obligation aspect of it needs to disappear. This is a First Amendment issue. In Ron Paul’s book “Liberty Defined,” he says, “The definition of marriage is what divides so many. Why not tolerate everybody’s definition as long as neither side uses force to impose its views on the other? Problem solved!”
The bottom line is that gay couples should be allowed to be married on the national level. Government should not be involved with defining marriage. Before defending traditional marriage, change it and get back to equality.
Oh, and stop making such a big deal out of it.
Chris Beacham is a sophomore majoring in psychology. His column runs biweekly on Mondays.